Nigeria’s housing market depressed, amidst economic recession

February 20, 2017

Nigeria’s housing market remains depressed, undermined by a combination of problems – economic recession, high interest rates, high inflation, rising unemployment, as well as worsening insurgencies. Demand has fallen sharply. House prices are also declining, especially in real terms.

InLagosIsland, house prices fell by 5.58% during 2016, after an annual decline of 25% in 2015 and y-o-y rises of 4.62% in 2014, 11.14% in 2013, 4.62% in 2012, and 28.87% in 2011. When adjusted for inflation, house prices in LagosIsland actually dropped a dramatic 18.17% during 2016.

On Lagos Mainland, average house prices rose by a modest 2.33% during 2016, a sharp slowdown from y-o-y growth of 20% the previous year, according to Residential Auctions Company (RAC). However due to high inflation, this translates, in real terms, into house prices dropping 11.3% y-o-y in 2016.

Lagos remains the most expensive city in Africa in 2016, according to real estate firm Savills, despite falling house prices and rents.

The average price of four- to five-bedroom houses in Lagos Mainland was NGN 75.51 million (US$239,900) in 2016 while similar properties in the LagosIsland cost around NGN 172.21 million (US$547,150), according to RAC.

The house price index in LagosIsland represents the high-end market in Nigeria. On the other hand, Lagos Mainland’s house price index represents price movements in the mainstream market.

Demand is falling sharply in most Nigerian cities. “It now takes a longer time to conclude transactions, while in some cases, there are renegotiations on rents,” said Emeka Eleh, the former president of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). While the impact of the economic recession varies from one place to another, high-end properties, such as in Ikoyi, are the worst hit, Eleh added.

Land transactions in Lagos also dropped 30% in 2016 from a year earlier, despite cuts in various land transaction-related rates. In 2015, consent fees were reduced from 6% to 1.5% while the capital gains tax rate was cut from 2% to 0.5%, in an effort to spur property demand.

In 2017, house prices are expected to continue falling in most cities, but should then improve, beginning with Lagos.

Nigeria lagos mainland house price change

“The likelihood that house prices will continue to fall in most [cities] this year is very high,” said Rotimi Akinlose, the managing director of RAC.“However, Lagos being the economic and financial base of the country will start to see house prices rise again across the board.” Akinlose added.

The economy was estimated to have contracted by around 1.7% in 2016, after expanding by 2.7% in 2015, 6.3% in 2014, 5.4% in 2013, 4.3% in 2012, and 4.9% in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Nigeria is expected to return to growth this year, with a projected GDP growth rate of 0.8%.

Land price variations

Nigeria house price index

Land prices in Nigeria are now falling, particularly in US dollar terms due to very weak Naira. Eko Atlantic City’s land prices more than doubled in Q3 2016 from a year earlier, according toMCO Real Estate, but when converted in US dollars, land prices were actually almost unchanged.

In Victoria Island, considered the commercial business district of Lagos, land prices increased 13.2% in Naira terms but dropped 25.8% in dollar terms. In Ikoyi, one of the most prestigious office destinations in Nigeria, land prices fell by 2.1% in Naira and by 36.2% in dollars. In BananaIsland, an artificial island off the foreshore of Ikoyi, land prices dropped 3.4% in Naira terms and by 36.4% in dollar terms. In Lekki Phase 1, a naturally formed peninsula that houses several estates and gated residential developments, land prices plunged 19% and 47.1%, in Naira and dollar terms, respectively. In Oniru, an affluent residential and tourist destination, land prices also fell by 3.3% in Naira terms and by 34% in dollar terms.

Land prices, Q3 2016

  Average price per sq. m. Y-O-Y change (%) Average price per sq. m. Y-O-Y change (%)
Eko Atlantic 520,000 54.0 0.1 1,700
Victoria Island 418,000 13.2 -25.8 1,377
Ikoyi 330,000 -2.1 -36.2 1,082
BananaIsland 400,000 -3.4 -36.3 1,326
Oniru 158,000 -3.3 -34.0 518
Lekki 1 196,000 -19.0 -47.1 644
Source: MCO Real Estate

Eko Atlantic had the most expensive land in Nigeria, with an average price of NGN520,000 (US$1,700) per sq. m. in Q3 2016, followed by Victoria Island (NGN418,000 or US$1,377 per sq. m.) and BananaIsland (NGN400,000 or US$1,326 per sq. m.).

Rents falling, vacancy rates rising

Nigeria lagos island house price change

Residential rents are falling. In Lagos, rents were down by about 27% in 2016 from a year earlier, making it more affordable for international occupiers, according to Savills.

Likewise, in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, residential buildings that were rented at around NGN 12 million (US$37,795) to NGN 15 million (US$47,244) before the recession are now renting for just NGN 8 million (US$25,197) to NGN 7 million (US$22,047), according to estate surveyor Sam Eboigbe. Similarly, duplexes that were initially rented for NGN 25 million (US$78,740) have been reduced to NGN 15 million (US$47,244), in an effort to attract new tenants.

In 2016, a substantial decline in demand caused an increase in the number of vacant properties in the upper-end real estate neighbourhoods of Victoria Island, Lekki, and Ikoyi, according to the Financial Derivatives Company Limited (FDC). More specifically, the FDC Vacancy Factor Index for residential properties increased 6.6% in Q2 2016 from the previous quarter.

The lower demand for housing can be attributed to the economic recession, very high inflation, rising unemployment, and falling consumer confidence, FDC added.

“Right now a lot of companies are no longer employing, no more accommodation for staff as companies are no longer paying,” said Eboigbe.

Residential construction activity mixed

Nigeria residential constructions

New housing unit supplyin Lagosdropped by over 50% to 2,424 units in 2016 from a year earlier, according to RAC - a sharp turnaround from strong growth rates seen in recent years, particularly the 85% growth in 2014.

On the other hand, housing starts in Lagos increased 14.4% y-o-y to 4,149 units in 2016, in contrast to a 58.5% decline in 2015.

Eko Atlantic City, Africa’s most ambitious real estate development

Covering around 10 million square metres (10 square kilometres), Eko Atlantic City is the most ambitious real estate development project ever undertaken in Africa - a megacity that will provide new homes for 250,000 people and office space for another 150,000 people, simultaneously protecting the coastline and solve Lagos´ chronic shortage of quality housing. It is being constructed on land reclaimed from the oceanadjoining Lagos´ Victoria Island district and the Phase 1 area of Lekki.  It is planned to have a positive environmental impact, as it will help stop the erosion of LagosState´s coastline, though there are criticisms of this aspect of the development, with some alleging that construction is encouraging storm surges. Eko Atlantic development is being carried out with private companies and investors providing the funding, whilst Lagos State Government is a strategic partner, with the support of the Federal Government.  The following projects are already being offered:

Eko Atlantic City residential developments

Project Type No. of Units Status
EkoWhitePearlTowers 2 & 3 BR Flats 96 Under construction
EkoBlackPearlTowers 2 & 3 BR Flats 120 Under construction
EkoIndigoPearlTowers 2 & 3 BR Flats 120 Under construction
EkoChampagnePearlTowers 2 & 3 BR Flats 132 Under construction
EkoAquaPearlTowers 2 & 3 BR Flats 96 Under construction
EkoEnergyState – Phase I 1, 2, 3 & 4 BR Flats 260 Under construction
LagosSkyTower 2 & 3 BR Flats 110 Proposed
LeReveTower 1, 2, & 3 BR Flats 40 Proposed
AzuriPeninsula 2, 4, 6 & 7 BR Flats 120 Proposed
Source: RAC

Other residential property developments in the country include the following:

  • Infinite Towers – a 25-storey twin towers that is set to become the tallest residential building on the shores of Lagos. Located in one of Ikoyi’s most prestigious location, Bourdillon Road, Infinite Towers is set to offer 41 units of duplex flats and duplex penthouses. The development is expected to be ready for occupancy this year.
  • Atlantic Business & Residential Resort – a mixed-use development located on the Water Corporation Drive, Victoria Island. The residential tower, which will offer 124 units of apartments and maisonettes, is expected to be completed in 2018/19.
  • Seattle Court – a 6-storey prime residential waterfront development in the diplomatic enclave of Walter Carrington, Victoria Island. The development, which is almost complete, will offer 24 luxury aparments.
  • Eden Heights – a 15-storey residential development in Elsie Femi Pearse, Victoria Island, offering 27 ultra-luxury apartments and penthouses. The development is expected to be fully delivered this year.
  • Ramzi Towers – an 18-storey residential building located at Fabac Close, Victoria Island. This environmentally friendly building is currently under construction and is set to offer 22 units of apartments and duplex penthouses.
  • Coral – a 17-storey beachfront residential development located in Water Corporation Drive, Victoria Island. The Coral, which will consist of 112 apartment units, is set to commence this year and is scheduled for completion in 2019.
  • Lorenzo – a 25-storey residential development located in Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi. It consists of 57 units of apartments, penthouses, and villas. The project is expected to be completed this year.
  • The Mandarin – an exquisite 6-storey residential building located at Adebisi Omotola Street, Victoria Island. The Mandarin, which consists of 32 units of apartments and maisonettes, is scheduled to be delivered in 2018.
  • Mikasa Residences – a 12.5 hectare residential development situated in the African University of Science and Technology, Galadimwa, Abuja. When completed, Mikasa Residences is expected to deliver different types of housing units, including detached, semi-detached, terrace and apartment units.
  • Turton Apartments – a new medium-sized residential development located on Turnton Street, Sabo, Yaba. Construction started in August 2015 and is expected to be fully delivered this year.
  • Misa Nigeria Limited’s waterfront luxury developments – Misa Nigeria Limited is expected to construct 14 waterfront luxury homes in the affluent Lagos neighbourhood of Osborne Phase II Ikoyi, targeted at high net worth individuals.

Acute housing deficit

Demand outstrips supply even in Nigeria’s high-income housing market. The country has limited lots under formal title and even quality housing can often not be mortgaged, so that the formal housing market serves only the minority, according to Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF)

Nigeria’s housing deficit has worsened over the past three decades, and the housing deficit is now about 17 million, up from 14 million in 2010, 12 million in 2007 and 7 million in 1991. According to the World Bank, the country needs about 700,000 additional units each year for the next 20 years.  However housing construction is now only about 100,000 units per year.

In Lagos, Nigeria’s largest urban area, about 70% of the total population currently lives in informal housing and slums, based on figures from Lagos State authorities.  The housing deficit in Lagos is estimated to be around 2.5 million units. In major centres such as Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan and Kano housing demand is growing at about 20% per year.

To abate the situation, the Lagos State Government plans to build 187,000 housing units every year over the next five years. In 2016, the Lagos State Government began implementing its Rent-To-Own programme in five estates built under the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme: the Sir Michael Otedola Housing Estate, Odoragunshin, Epe; CHOIS City, Agbowa; Oba Adegboruwa Estate Igbogbo, Ikorodu; Alhaja Adetoun Mustapha Estate, Ojokoro; and Hon. Olaitan Mustapha Estate, Ojokoro.

Moreover, the government is looking at the possibilities for partnering with private real estate developers. “When the private sector is involved and a conducive environment is there, necessary laws that will encourage housing development, I can assure you that the job will be easy for us to do,” said real estate consultant Barrister Festus Adebayo.

Yields in Lagos are moderate

Nigeria interest rates

The average yield on residential property for Lagos Mainland is estimated at 4.30% per annum, while the average yield on Lagos Island is estimated at 3.64% per annum, according to the RAC.  Yields have generally been significantly higher on the Lagos Mainland except in 2010, when Lagos Island yields were marginally higher.

That´s becauseLagos Island has seen stronger rises in prices than Lagos Mainland, with surging demand for luxury houses.

Interest rates remain unsustainably high

In December, 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria held the benchmark interest rate at 14%, after a 200 basis points cut in July 2016 in a bid to lure back foreign investors amidst the plunging naira.

The prime lending rate remains high at 17.09% (December 2016).

Prime lending rates for mortgage loans ranged from 13% to 29% in Q3 2016, based on a survey conducted by the central bank.

“Such high rates are not sustainable for real estate development where the gestation period in most cases is at least two years before any rental revenues start to accrue,” said MCO Real Estate.

Average mortgage rates (%), Q3 2016

Banks Prime (%) Max (%)
Access Bank 13.00 25.00
Coronation Merchant Bank 14.00 22.00
Diamond Bank 17.00 25.00
Ecobank Nigeria 17.00 26.75
FCMB 17.00 19.95
Fidelity Bank 19.00 28.00
First Bank of Nigeria 20.00 30.00
Guaranty Trust Bank 13.00 24.00
Heritage Bank 27.00 28.00
Keystone Bank Ltd. 19.00 30.00
Skye Bank 28.00 31.00
Stanbic IBTC Bank 16.00 26.00
Suntrust Bank Limited 6.00 6.00
Standard Chartered Bank 20.90 21.90
Sterling Bank 19.00 27.00
Union Bank 26.50 28.50
United Bank of Africa 24.00 29.00
Unity Bank 24.00 30.00
Wema Bank 29.00 29.00
Zenith Bank 19.00 28.00
Source: Central Bank of Nigeria

Challenges facing the property market

There are three main structural challenges facing Nigeria´s property market.

1. Property registration is expensive. According to Nigeria’s Land Use Act of 1978, ownership rights for land are vested in the office of the Governors of various State Governments. Land titles are prone to political interference because of the vast powers of governors over state land allocation.

Bottlenecks inevitably arise in the property transfer system due to Nigeria’s federal structure.

Another hindrance is that 65% to 70% of land is still held under customary title. Even in areas where title deeds are more common, there can be difficulties in clarifying who actually holds title to the land. This title uncertainty often means endless challenges in court.

Nigeria is among the worst globally when it comes to registering property, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2017 report, which ranks it at 182nd out of 190 countries. The registration process can last as long as 6 months to 2 years, taking an average of 12 procedures, and costing about 20.8% of the value of the property. Likewise, Nigeria also lags in terms of dealing with construction permits, which ranks at 174th out of 190 countries, according to the same report.

Neighboring Ghana only requires 5 procedures, 34 days and 1.3% of the property value. The cost of registering property in Nigeria is double the average for Sub-Saharan Africa and five times the OECD average. In South Africa, similar land registrations are completed in much shorter times and cost only 6% of the property value.

2. Housing construction handicapped by high costs. Building a house is very expensive in Nigeria. A three-bedroom house, for example, will cost about US$50,000, compared to US$36,000 in South Africa and US$26,000 in India, according to Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The cost of construction is high for three reasons: high costs of building materials, high skilled labour costs, and costs associated with poor roads and sewerage systems.

About 75% of dwellings in Nigeria’s urban areas are built of concrete. Cement prices in Nigeria are about 30-40% higher than in neighboring countries and world market prices.  The lack of public infrastructure adds as much as 30% to the total costs of the development.

3. Few can access mortgage finance. Only about 5% of the 13.7­ million housing units in Nigeria are financed with a mortgage, and the mortgage debt to GDP ratio is only about 1%, and mortgage loans account to less than 1% of commercial banks´ total assets (specialist mortgage banks accounted for about 57% share of the market, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria).

Surprisingly, only 2% of Nigerians over 15 years old have a loan from a financial institution, and a meagre 0.6% have an outstanding loan for home purchase. Loans for home construction are more common, although still miniscule, at 1.7% overall, according to the Global Financial Inclusion (Global Findex) Database, launched by the World Bank in 2012. Though the government set financial inclusion as a key pillar of its ´Financial System Strategy 2020´, the challenges are huge, including low literacy, high interest rates, rising inflation, and high poverty.

The Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) manages a National Housing Fund financed mostly by contributions from public sector workers. Last year, the FMBN introduced a scheme offering a housing loan up to NGN15 million (US$49,100) to all interested Nigerians. However, before one can qualify, the borrower must make monthly contributions over a period of six months and make a downpayment of 15% of the value of the property.

Housing development agencies in various state governments have had very limited impact.

“The ecosystem for residential investment development still remains relatively broken… The lack of affordable mortgages is a major challenge, a major deterrent, a major hindrance to the development of residential properties in this market,” said Michael Chu´di Ejekam, Director of Nigerian Real Estate at Actis, a London-based private equity firm.

Insurgencies have hit the north´s property market

The Islamist insurgency in Nigeria started in 1999 with the establishment of Sharia law in several Muslim-majority states in the north. Tensions between Christians and Muslims have resulted in thousands of killings, with deaths sharply increasing in recent years as conflict between the Islamic group Boko Haram and the secular government continues to grow.

Terrorist activities and insurgency have scaled up in recent times – as seen in the abduction of 200 high school girls in the Borno state.

The Muslim-Christian clashes have hit Northern Nigeria’s property market. Many residents in widely attacked areas and known terrorist hotspots (like Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Yobe and Adamwa) have fled to other parts of the northern region, while some have left the region for good.

Fighting escalated in late 2014, with Boko Haram militants attacking and seizing several northern Nigerian towns. The militants seized control of Bama in late 2014, attacked the towns of Baga andMaiduguri in January 2015, captured Gwoza in March 2015 and Sambisa forest in April 2015.

“Unarguably, people are moving down south. The insurgency is really affecting the construction industry negatively,” said Fred Akinloye, former chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) Kano State Chapter. “Property values have gone down considerably because demand is very low.”

"The [property] vacancy rate is as high as 30 percent in Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, Katsina and Kano,” according to online newspaper BusinessDay.

From 2009 to 2016, the insurgency has killed more than 15,000 people and forced around 2 million people from their homes. Though the government has already retaken most areas held by the group, including its stronghold Camp Zero in Sambisa forest, violent encounters and suicide bombings have actually increased recently. In fact, an estimated 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria are currently in need of food assistance, medical care, and shelter, according to Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of World Food Programme (WFP).

Efforts to spur housing sector

Nigeria inflation

In 2000, the government implemented a number of reforms to stimulate the housing sector. These included establishing the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, as well as restructuring the housing finance system through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN).

Computerized land registries have also been introduced in Lagos and Abuja to address the lengthy registration process. In August 2010, the governor of Lagos State also signed a bill establishing the Lagos State Mortgage Board whose mandate is “to generate an environment that enables access to mortgage finance”.

Based on Jones Lang LaSalle’s Global Real Estate Transparency Index for 2016, Nigeria’s property markets, especially the Lagos market, has been continuously improving in terms of transparency and ease of doing business.

A National Housing Policy was adopted in December 2011 to ensure that all “Nigerians own or have access to decent, safe and sanitary housing in healthy environment with infrastructural services at affordable cost, with secure tenure.” Separate chapters deal with land for housing, housing finance, housing maintenance, building materials and construction workforce, social housing, and management information systems.

In 2012, then President Goodluck Jonathan convened a Roundtable on the Housing Sector which brought together key stakeholders. The Roundtable prompted the government to establish a Housing Finance Programme Committee, chaired by the Finance Minister, tasked with developing a facility that would significantly improve Nigerians’ access to mortgages.  The Nigeria Mortgage Re-finance Company (NMRC) is the outcome.

Established with US$300 million from the World Bank, the NMRC is a re-financing institution providing mortgage lending banks with increased access to liquidity and long-term funds. Based on World Bank estimates, NMRC should be able to deliver more than 75,000 new homes per year and generate 300,000 direct and 488,000 indirect jobs during the initial phase of the program. Then President Jonathan officially launched the NMRC in January 2014 in Abuja, and the company is now in operation.

The agency also expects to facilitate more than 450,000 loans for low-cost housing units over the next five years. However, others are skeptical. 

“There’s little incentive or money for private developers to provide low-cost housing… The cost of the land, the cost of what an average individual expects to have in terms of square footage in a number of rooms, none of it makes commercial sense,” according to Knight Frank’s Peter Welborn.

Nigeria’s version of stagflation

Nigeria gdp inflation

2016 was Nigeria’s worst recession in over two decades, with the economy in technical recession, combined with persistently high inflation and rising unemployment. The economy contracted by 0.36% in Q1 2016, 2.06% in Q2 2016 and 2.24% in Q3 2016, amidst lower hydrocarbons revenues, tight capital controls and the continued volatility of the domestic currency.

There had previously been growth rates of 2.7% in 2015, 6.3% in 2014, 5.4% in 2013, 4.3% in 2012, and 4.9% in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The economy grew strongly from 2001 to 2010, with an average real GDP growth rate of 8.9% every year.

Nigeria is expected to return to growth this year, with GDP growth of 0.8% this year and 2.3% in 2018, according to the IMF.

In December 2016, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari presented a budget amounting to NGN7.28 trillion (US$23.13 billion), up by almost 20% from the 2016 budget of NGN6.07 trillion (US$19.29 billion), in an effort to buoy the struggling economy.

In December 2016, nationwide inflation stood at 18.55%, sharply up from 9.6% in the same period last year, with the highest increases seen in housing, electricity, water, gas, and clothing materials, according to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). After an annual average of 16% from 2001 to 2005, inflation declined to an average of 10% from 2006 to 2015.

Unemployment is also rising sharply. In Q3 2016, overall unemployment rate stood at 13.9%, up from 13.3% in Q2 2016 and 12.1% in Q1 2016, according to the NBS. Also, it was a sharp increase from an average unemployment rate of 8% from 2009 to 2015, according to the IMF.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy

Nigeria exchange rate

Nigeria’s economy is now visibly the largest in Africa after it “rebased” its gross domestic product (GDP) for 2013, from US$270 billion to about US$510 billion. That compares with South Africa’s GDP of US$370.3 billion and Egypt’s GDP of US$285 billion at the end of 2013.

While the revised figure makes Nigeria the 26th biggest economy in the world, the country lags behind in terms of income per capita, with US$2,260 for each citizen in 2016 – that compared to South Africa’s income per capita of US$5,000.

The rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP has boosted interest from international property developers and foreign homebuyers to invest in the country’s real estate market.

However, since the peg to the US dollar was abolished in June 2016, the Naira has been falling sharply, resulting to a contraction in the overall size of the economy. After maintaining an exchange rate of NGN 197 = USD 1 for about 16 months, Nigeria’s central bank decided to move to a “purely” market-driven foreign currency trading to alleviate the chronic foreign currency shortage that hinders economic growth. In just seven months, the Naira lost about 38% of its value, with the monthly average exchange rate standing at NGN 317.6 = USD 1 in mid-January 2017.

Severe poverty, corruption-prone system

In summary, Nigeria remains an amazing mess, fifteen years after the re-establishment of democracy, and 54 years after independence.

Corruption reigns from the presidency downwards. US$20 billions of revenue disappeared over 18 months from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., according to ex-central bank governor Lamido Sanuisi. The northeast is in thrall to the Islamist terror organization Boko Haram. The police are abusive, violent, and corrupt. Power cuts are frequent, the roads ill-maintained. The press is under threat. The president systematically impeaches opposition governors. The south periodically wonders whether it should separate from the chaotic north.

Colonized by the British, Nigeria gained its independence in 1960. The country’s oil industry boomed in the 1970s, making Nigeria Africa´s largest oil exporter. But with the world recession of the 1980s oil prices plunged, leading to a cycle of massive debt, soaring inflation, and large-scale unemployment. The oil price is now rising again, but little trickles down to the masses.

Currently, almost 70% of Nigerians are living on less than a dollar per day, up from about 61% in 2010 and 52% in 2004, according to the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

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